Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Forever “Abu Bayan” (Bayan’s Dad)

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Infinitely Merciful 

ON June 1, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our son, Zacharia Hesham Hassaballa. It was a very happy day for the both of us. I pray that the Precious Beloved protects him, blesses him, and makes him a force for good in both our family and this world. His official due date was today – which is bittersweet because, this is also the anniversary of the death of our eldest child, Bayan. Indeed, his coming has made June a little less dark; his coming has made June is little more bearable, as my wife said to me.

It is customary, in Arabian tradition, to nickname a man as “Abu —-,” or “Father of —-,” after the name of either his first-born son or his only son. If one doesn’t have any sons, then he is named after his first-born daughter. Thus, heretofore, I would be known among my Arab friends as “Abu Bayan.” The same goes for my wife. But, as if on cue, after our son was born, with all the congratulations I received, many a person would say, “Congratulations, ‘Abu Zacharia,'” or “Father of Zacharia.” When I heard this, I would smile and say, “Thanks.” But, in my mind and my heart, I will forever be known as “Abu Bayan,” or “Bayan’s Dad.”

Three years ago, when our Angel flew back to her Lord, it was a beautiful sunny day like today. Three years ago, despite the warmth and glow of the sun, our whole world was darkened and overturned. Three years ago, our lives changed and we will never be the same again. From that day forward, three years ago, I was forever “Abu Bayan.”

She was so very, very precious to me. Her sweetness would warm even the coldest and darkest heart. Her love would envelope you and make you feel at peace. Her smile would light up the entire room. It killed me to see her suffer through the crippling effects of Ataxia-Telangiectasia, but despite her disability, she always remained happy and cheery. And I was forever honored to be called “Abu Bayan.”

Cancer really took its toll on both her body and spirit. Even when she was suffering, she never wanted us to feel sad or hurt. Once, we were out with family, and on the way home, she wanted to ride with her aunt. She made absolutely sure that we were not saddened by her decision. That’s just how beautiful her soul and being was. And that is why I revel in forever being “Abu Bayan.”

Ever since that day, my heart has screamed in pain and anguish over her loss. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t have a pain that can sometimes seize my very breath. Yes, my face may have a smile, but if you could see my heart – and my wife is the exact same – it would be broken in terror and anguish. Losing a child is the absolute worst thing anyone can go through, and I pray that no one else has to go through such a terrible occurrence. But, it happened. All I can do is pray to the Lord for His comfort and strength.

And I am grateful to the Precious Beloved for His giving me such a beautiful daughter as Bayan; I am grateful to Him for His making me “Abu Bayan.”

I love each and every one of my children. They are all a beautiful, tremendous gift from the Lord above. I don’t mean to diminish any one of them by expressing this feeling. And, of course, I won’t chastise anyone for calling me – with good intentions, I know – “Abu Zacharia.” But, I know – and now I tell the world – that in my heart I will forever be “Abu Bayan.” I could not have it any other way.

Lord, I really, really miss my beautiful Angel Bayan. Grant me strength and comfort to endure the pain of her loss.

The Heart of the Matter

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

With so much talk and banter about “Sharia law” and how Muslims in America are trying to supplant the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law, I came across this passage of the Qur’an that is relevant to this silly discussion. Let me say again that Muslims are not trying to supplant US law with Sharia. In fact, Sharia law dictates that we follow US law as US citizens.

But, underlying the claim that Muslims are somehow trying to “take over” America, is a false assertion that Islam must dominate all other faiths, that Islam sees no room for a multifaith society and world. Nothing could be further from the truth:

UNTO every community have We appointed [different] ways of worship, which they ought to observe. Hence, [O believer,] do not let those [who follow ways other than thine] draw thee into disputes on this score, but summon [them all] unto thy Sustainer: for, behold, thou art indeed on the right way.  And if they [try to] argue with thee, say [only]: “God knows best what you are doing.” [For, indeed,] God will judge between you [all] on Resurrection Day with regard to all on which you were wont to differ. (22:67-69)

This is very similar to this passage:

Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto, you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ.” (5:48)

In fact, the Qur’an itself tells us that most will not believe in it:

And so, be not in doubt about this [revelation]: behold, it is the truth from thy Sustainer, even though most people will not believe in it. (11:17)

In this, behold, there is a message [unto humanity], even though most of them will not believe [in it.] (26:8)

Yet – however strongly thou may desire it – most people will not believe [in this revelation] (12:103)

But, it does not say, “kill them all,” as some would have you believe. It says: “in the end, God will judge between all of you over what you were wont to differ.” Further, it says that we should compete with each other in doing good works on earth (5:48), and that we should not get into disputes with those who follow other faiths and ways of life (22:67). Islam teaches to live and let live.

Do some Muslims preach otherwise? Yes. Do some Muslims practice otherwise? Yes. Does it make it right? No. Does it mean that their actions reflect the truth? No.

In fact, those that seek to kill and destroy all those of other faiths – or even Muslims who don’t ascribe to their own wicked beliefs – are criminals and are defying all that Islam teaches and stands for. Their crimes cannot be projected upon the whole body of Muslims worldwide.

The heart of the matter is this: it is a reality that there will be different faiths and faith groups; it is, in fact, part of God’s plan. And the Muslim response to this should be: “vie with one another in doing good works”; work together to make God’s earth that much greener, that much safer, that much more peaceful. Those that seek otherwise twist God’s words and defame His way.

 

The Blasphemy of “Anti-Blasphemy” Laws

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful 

I first learned about the law – that passed the Kuwaiti parliament – on a ChicagoNow blog post entitled “Kuwait theocracy declares Islam is weak.” The law calls for the death penalty for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, his wives or relatives. Apparently, this was in response to the arrest of a Shi’ite Muslim who allegedly insulted the Prophet and his wife on Twitter (he denied doing so and claims his account was hacked). The law now goes before the Emir, who has to approve it for it to take effect.

This law is similar to other so-called “anti-blasphemy” laws that have passed in other Muslim countries. The irony of these laws is this: they are – in and of themselves – quite blasphemous.

If you pass a law that imposes the death penalty on those who insult God, or Islam, or the Prophet Muhammad, you imply that God is unable to defend Himself, that He needs us to defend His honor, or His dignity, or His majesty, or His magnificence.

How absurd.

Now, of course, I do not like it when God is cursed or mocked, or when the Prophet is maligned or attacked. Far from it. Having said that, however, I do not believe that anyone who does such a thing should be killed. God forbid!

The Quran talks about the mockery of God’s signs and messages, and nowhere does it say “kill those who engage in such behavior.” Nowhere:

And, indeed, He has enjoined upon you in this divine writ that whenever you hear people deny the truth of God’s messages and mock at them, you shall avoid their company until they begin to talk of other things – or else, verily, you will become like them. Behold, together with those who deny the truth, God will gather in hell the hypocrites (4:140)

Also read:

NOW, whenever thou meet such as indulge in [blasphemous] talk about Our messages, turn thy back upon them until they begin to talk of other things and if Satan should ever cause thee to forget [thyself], remain not, after recollection, in the company of such evildoing folk (6:68)

No death penalty; no killing; no taking of life. I mean, for God’s sake, Satan himself defied and rebelled against God, and the Lord gave him respite until Judgment Day. In fact, Satan’s discourse was quite disrespectful:

[Whereupon Satan] said: “Now that Thou hast thwarted me,” I shall most certainly lie in ambush for them all along Thy straight way (7:16).

What audacity to speak in this manner with the Lord Supreme. Still, He gave him respite. So, why – as awful as this is to me as a devout Muslim – are these Muslims so quick to condemn to death those that curse God, or the Prophet?

The Quran is full of verses that respond to the attacks and mockery leveled against the Prophet Muhammad, but none of these responses say, “Kill them”:

And yet, they [who deny the truth] say: “O thou unto whom this reminder has [allegedly] been bestowed from on high: verily, thou art mad! Why dost thou not bring before us angels, if thou art a man of truth? [Yet] We never send down angels otherwise than in accordance with the [demands of] truth; and [were the angels to appear now,] lo! they [who reject this divine writ] would have no further respite! (15:6-8)

Verily, thus shall We deal with all who were lost in sin: for, behold, whenever they were told, “There is no deity save God,” they would glory in their arrogance and would say, “Shall we, then, give up our deities at the bidding of a mad poet?” Nay, but he [whom you call a mad poet] has brought the truth; and he confirms the truth of [what the earlier of God’s] message-bearers [have taught] Behold, you will indeed taste grievous suffering [in the life to come] although you shall not be requited for aught but what you were wont to do. (37:34-39)

EXHORT, then, [O Prophet, all men:] for, by thy Sustainer’s grace, thou art neither a soothsayer nor a madman. Or do they say, “[He is but] a poet – let us wait what time will do unto him”? Say thou: “Wait, [then,] hopefully; behold, I, too, shall hopefully wait with you!” Is it their minds that bid them [to take] this [attitude] – or are they [simply] people filled with overweening arrogance? (52:29-32)

Thou art not, by thy Sustainer’s grace, a madman! (68:2)

For, this fellow-man of yours is not a madman: (81:22)

Yes, God may punish those who mock Him, or His messages, or His messengers on Judgment Day, but no where in these verses does it say “kill them now.” So, by what authority do these so-called “defenders of the faith” call for the murder of so-called “blasphemers.” They have none, and they distort the holy Word of God when they do thus.

In the beginning of the ChicagoNow blog post, it read: “Any belief that cannot withstand scrutiny isn’t worth having. Anyone who is secure in their beliefs does not run away from criticism, they welcome it.” The author, James Kirk Wall, could not have been more correct.

“Truth,” it has been said, “does not fear investigation.” God, Almighty and Powerful, is not threatened by the attacks and mockery of those who don’t believe in Him. God does not need us to defend Him. It is just as He said in a Sacred Prophetic Tradition of the Prophet Muhammad:

O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and will not attain benefitting Me so as to benefit Me. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, [both the human and spiritual beings of you] to be as pious as the most pious heart of any one man of you, that would not increase My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, [both the human and spiritual beings of you] to be as wicked as the most wicked heart of any one man of you, that would not decrease My kingdom in anything.

No, I don’t like it when someone mocks God, or belief in Him, or when someone attacks the Prophet or his family. But, I will never call for their murder. God can take care of Himself.

Friday Sermon: The Test of the Beautiful

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful 

This is the first of several Friday sermons that I have given that I will write up and post here. 

 

The Test of the Beautiful 

In the seventh verse of the eighteenth chapter of the Quran, it states:

Behold, We have willed that all beauty on earth be a means by which we put humanity to a test, [showing] which of them are best in conduct.

Thus, everything that is beautiful on this earth is test for us, to see how we respond to this thing of beauty. If that thing of beauty is another human being, that is a test for us: do we respond to that beautiful person – man or woman – in the proper way? Do we lower our gaze when he or she walks by? Or, do we gawk and objectify said person?

If we want to pursue a relationship with that person, do we go about that in the proper manner? Do we pursue the path of marriage? Or, do we simply satisfy our lust with that person in a manner that the Lord does not want?

If that thing of beauty is a natural resource: a river, an ocean, a tree, a mountain, a stream, or a rain forest; do we do our utmost to protect said natural beauty? Do we respect the earth and try to preserve her as much as we can for all of posterity? Or, do we exploit without end and care less for those who come after us?

Indeed, the Lord says:

[And remember that] it is God who has created the heavens and the earth, and who sends down water from the sky and thereby brings forth [all manner] of fruits for your sustenance; and who has made ships subservient to. you, so that they may sail through the sea at His behest; and has made the rivers subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you; and has made the sun and the moon, both of them constant upon their courses, subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you; and has made the night and the day subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you. (14:32-33)

Yet, we must learn how to benefit from the earth as much as we can, all the while protecting it from willful harm and neglect.

If that thing of beauty is a spouse, do we treat that spouse with love, mercy, and respect? Do we honor God by honoring that spouse? Or, do we abuse and neglect him or her? Do we cheat on that spouse, not caring about the damage such an action would cause? Do we see that spouse as a gift from God that should be cherished? Or, do we see that spouse as a slave to be worked for our benefit?

The Lord has answered such questions:

And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think! (30:21)

Our spouses are “wonders” from God, and in them we find tranquility and peace, love and mercy. Treat them with kindness we must.

If that thing of beauty is a child, do we honor that child with a good home? A good upbringing? Or, do we neglect that child and abuse him or her? Do we love that child with all our hearts? Care for the child? Protect that child from harm and evil? Or, do we look the other when evil strikes? Indeed, there are few things that are more beautiful than a child, and if we are blessed to have one, then we must do our best to show our gratitude to the Lord by raising our children to be upright citizens of the world, who are both good to God and good to His people.

If that thing of beauty is family, or friends, or neighbors, do we treat them with kindness and respect? Or do we mistreat and abuse them? Do we help them in their times of need? Do we support them when they need us, even if it is helping them put away their groceries? Do we treat them as we would treat ourselves? Indeed, we must.

Yet, as with everything on this earth, these things of beauty will not be here forever. The Lord says in the next verse:

And, verily, [in time] We shall reduce all that is on [the earth] to barren dust! (18:8)

What is the implication of this? Should our response be, “Why bother, if all will become ‘dust in the wind'”? No. Since our time is limited, we must do the best we can to make the best of all the things of beauty with which we are blessed. We should try to spend every day to the fullest in doing good on earth: doing good by our family, our friends, our neighbors, our spouses, our children, and our planet.

And you know what the best thing is? When we do these things, we are necessarily doing good by the Lord, Who is the Most Beautiful of all that is beautiful in the heavens and the earth. The only difference is: this Thing of Beauty will endure and never go away. And that can only be a beautiful thing.

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